Maxi Rodriguez, Liverpool’s Argentine winger who always seems to have a knack of being in the right place at the right time, is one of the players that Brendan Rodgers will have to make a decision on this summer.
Considered to be criminally underused by the majority of Liverpool fans during the 2011-12 season, Maxi has been a squad player ever since he joined from Atletico Madrid in January 2010 – and what a fantastic squad player he is.
But should he be more than that? And with his wages rumoured to be around £80,000 a week, can Liverpool afford to keep a player who earns considerably more than their best player—Luis Suarez—but only plays a limited number of games?
Rumours were rife on Thursday suggesting that the 31 year old had signed for his boyhood team, Newell’s Old Boys, but they were later quelled by Maxi himself who was quoted as saying
I do not know where these things come from, I have one year left on my contract at Liverpool and did not talk to anybody.
It is thought likely that Maxi will move on this summer as he appeared to wave goodbye on being substituted in his last home game against Chelsea.
However, until it happens there remains every chance that he will still be a Liverpool player come September 1st.
This will largely depend on how often Rodgers plans on using him as Maxi believes he still has the legs to play far more regularly than he has done—he only started 17 times for Dalglish last season. He voiced his displeasure saying:
I’m not playing the amount of minutes that I want to play. When I play, I take my chances and do a good job, I score goals. I don’t know if I will stay for next season, that’s the truth. I will decide at the end of the season. All the people here have treated me well, but I want more minutes.
Why should Liverpool retain Maxi?
Versatility. Maxi is able to play in a number of positions. Throughout his career he has played as a right winger, a left winger and even part of a midfield three.
Intelligence. Maxi has the best footballing brain that Liverpool want their players to possess. His off the ball movement is second to none and the way he links up with other players, particularly Suarez, is poetic.
Class. Maxi defines class. He possesses a deft first touch but does not shy away from hard work, wins more than half of his possession duels, makes a lot of interceptions and wins 75% of his tackles.
Fitness. Maxi very rarely gets injured, a quality that should not be overlooked. You can have the best player in the world, but if he’s injury prone then he is not much use to you.
Goals. Maxi has scored 17 goals for Liverpool in 73 performances, including two hat tricks vs. Birmingham City and Fulham. During Dalglish’s second stint as Liverpool boss Maxi scored on average, a goal every 120 minutes. He also possessed the highest chance conversion for Liverpool during 2011-12 season scoring a goal from 36% of his shots.
Possession. Maxi very rarely loses possession due to his high intelligence and ability to do the simple things consistently to a very high level. Last season he had a higher pass completion percentage than anyone else in the Liverpool squad, averaging close to 90%. A lot of his passes do go backwards (37%) but Maxi is also very good at keeping the ball in tight areas – a quality that Rodgers will value very highly next season.
Why should Liverpool let Maxi go?
Pace. Maxi was never the quickest but at 31 he has lost a yard of pace. Brendan Rodgers will likely play with two wingers next season who have the ability to the run at a full back and make something happen, a quality that Maxi doesn’t have.
Contract. Maxi is in the last year of his contract and could still command a transfer fee of maybe £1m, though he may still leave on a free transfer.
Wages. Maxi will almost certainly only be a squad player next season but he reportedly earns more than Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Lucas Leiva and Andy Carroll; all of these are players who will see a lot more minutes than Maxi next season. Paying a squad player more money than most of your first teamers makes less financial sense than signing Stewart Downing for £20m. It would make far more financial sense to sell/release Maxi from his contract and replace him with a younger winger who would accept less wages, play more minutes next season and would have potential sell on value.
It could be that Maxi should go as he possibly does not warrant his current wages and although he could play in a number of positions under Rodgers, he wouldn’t be first choice in any of them.
He could potentially play the Joe Allen role in a midfield three, as his work rate and ability to keep the ball and make intelligent runs would see him suited to it.
However, he would be contending with Jordan Henderson and potentially a new signing for this position and would probably be third or maybe fourth choice.
He could also play on the wing but with Suarez likely to occupy one of them and the likely signing of another winger, he would again be third, maybe second choice at best.
If he were to agree to a pay cut then he would be a very good squad player but it could be that this summer is the perfect time to sell or release the higher earners at the club who do not contribute to the side on the same scale as their pay checks, due to their status as squad players.
Dirk Kuyt (already sold), Maxi Rodriguez, Joe Cole, Alberto Aquilani and Jamie Carragher represent a sizeable chunk of Liverpool’s wage bill, perhaps as much as £22 million per year between them.
None of them are likely to be regular first team players next season and so selling them and reinvesting the money in youthful, hungry players who will add more to the squad, and who could potentially be sold for more than they arrived for, would make far more football and financial sense.